(Charlie Dunkerley, centre, playing for Hull City against Watford. Photo via Twitter: @CharlieDunks1)
Being released from your home town club, you would think it would be devastating? Well for Charlie Dunkerley, it was his best move so far in his footballing career to join North Ferriby United from Hull City. The nineteen year-old midfielder had two spells at the Hull City Academy before being released in the summer of 2018. A spell at Leeds United academy as well as a trial at Bradford City showcases potential in a player that had a serious knee injury when he was just sixteen. However, he is now settled at Evo-Stik Premier club North Ferriby United following a successful loan spell last season with the club, despite relegation from the Vanarama National North.
Asking where his interest in football came from, Dunkerley said: “My dad was probably the biggest influence. My dad played when he was younger many years ago and then obviously I had very sporty brothers, so I think it was just a family thing really. It kind of ran through the family and I just picked it up from there. I started playing football at a very young age.”
The Beverley-born midfielder started at amateur clubs Mill Lane and Beverley White Star before joining Hull City for the first time at the age of nine. When asked about what he remembered about joining City, Dunkerley admitted: “I remember the release side more than the actual signing on part! But from what I can remember, any time you signed for a professional club, your buzzing aren’t you? But then I remember I got released when I was ten years old and I remember that being devastating; that’s probably the worst I’ve ever felt from being rejected.”
(Dunkerley at his first spell with Hull City. Photo via Twitter: @CharlieDunks1)
Dunkerley didn’t give up on his football dream and played Sunday League for Westella & Willerby. However, before joining Hull for the second time, Dunkerley spent a short time at fellow Championship side Leeds United. “That was while I was playing for Westella & Willerby,” revealed Dunkerley.
“It was probably when I was fourteen years old I reckon. I was probably there for a about a year. I played in a thing called the Shadow Squad for quite a long time and I eventually got through to the academy and I trained and played with them for about four or five months I reckon.”
Leeds United however didn’t sign Dunkerley after a promising year, but Charlie could remember his playing days for Westella & Willerby being successful. “Whilst I was Leeds United I was still playing Sunday League Football for Westella & Willerby and Westella was probably the strongest side at the time; we won loads of trophies.”
While playing for Westella & Willerby, the Beverley-born midfielder was signed by Hull City for a second time and the connection came from who coached Westella. “Nick Barmby was our coach so we already had strong connections with Hull City in that respect,” said Dunkerley.
(Dunkerley, back row far right, with his Sunday League team Westella & Willerby alongside Nick Barmby, next to Dunkerley. Photo via Twitter: @CharlieDunks1)
“Obviously with me being on their books previously when I was really young, the guys in charge at Hull City when it was Billy Russell and Neil Mann and people like that, they already had an idea of who I was and what I was about and even from seeing me at such a young age, so I think when they heard that I left Leeds United, I started playing for Hull Reps, Hull Representatives, and then we played a few games against the academy and then I think there was about four or five of us from Westella that all went on trial and after about two weeks they ended up offering me a contract. I was the only one that signed out of the lads that went down.”
When asked what the difference was when first signing for City, compared to the second time, Dunkerley responded: “To be honest it was more of a shock, like a big thing when I was younger when I kind of thought ‘wow’ and obviously as a young kid I was a bit of glory supporter as well so seeing when I signed, even the second time, Hull City were doing really well. They was in the Premier League, so signing for a Premier League club was like ‘wow like I’m the big dog here’ do you know what I mean? It kind of felt like that, but when I resigned at about fourteen/fifteen I wasn’t really that bothered in all honesty, because I just loved playing and I just played for the fun of it so then when that opportunity came up I just thought ‘lets go for it’.”
Dunkerley however had a unfortunate turn of fate whilst in his first year back at City; a serious knee injury in the third game of the season against Barnsley which required multi-ligament reconstruction. “I felt I had a fairly good pre-season, so I was looking forward to kick on and I think I came on the last fifteen/twenty minutes of a home game against Barnsley. The ball’s come up for me to hold up and I took one touch going back towards my own goal, planted my leg and just there I heard a big crunch and at the time I thought I’d broke my leg, but I’d never had an injury before so I didn’t really know what was going on. I was a bit confused and then obviously I looked down at my knee and it was swollen, it had blown up like a balloon, I couldn’t walk, I had to get stretchered off and then it was just one big rollercoaster really from there.”
The injury process was a big mental challenge for Dunkerley as he revealed: “The early stages were really hard after I think, from initially doing the injury, I couldn’t walk for a few weeks and then eventually after having the scans and seeing surgeons. I remember being sat at a physio bed at the training ground and there was probably about five physios, including the two head doctors from the first team were all assessing me, so there’s quite a lot of people around me and eventually they told me they all couldn’t really think what was wrong. They all knew I had done something major, but they couldn’t really pinpoint what it exactly was and after a little while the head doctor turned round to me and said ‘I think you’ve ruptured your ACL and possibly done your LCL as well on the outside of your leg’, so from there you’ve got all these guys looking at you and I’m a bit shook. I was only sixteen or I only just turned sixteen as well, as I was one of the young ones in my age group, and I remember one of the physios taking me outside, because, I think it was Alex Chester, I was welling up a bit, and he took me out I think it all just kind of came out. I was a bit shocked to be honest.”
(Dunkerley after his operation on his knee injury. Photo via Twitter: @CharlieDunks1)
The injury was awful for Dunkerley. He had just come to the academy full-time and was injured before he could set his mark on the club, especially for someone who the academy rated so highly. “I was in a group of players that were kind of expected to go on and do really well; people like Josh Tymon (Stoke City) and Robbie McKenzie and Tyler (Hamilton), them two still play (for Hull City). There was a good group of us; Johnny (Saltmer), who’s also at Ferriby with me, so to then go from being up there to then all of sudden to having this big massive injury, it was bit of a shock to the system and I didn’t know how to deal with it at first.”
Dunkerley was given a third-year scholarship, due to the injury, which essentially meant his first year was wiped clear. However, he saw the light at the end of the tunnel, which was rewarded in a big way. A substitute appearance at the KC Stadium for the historic fixture between Hull City and the SportPesa All-Stars. “That was wicked to be fair; that was the first time I ever got to play at the KC (KCOM Stadium),” said Dunkerley. “I’d been on the bench a few times for the 23’s and been on the pitch and stuff, but that was the first time I actually got on for a game and it was quite good to be fair, because there was a massive crowd and all with the blow horns and it was a real good experience. Just a shame I couldn’t go on the trip to Kenya!”
(Dunkerley in action at the KCOM Stadium against the SportPesa All-Stars. Photo: Charlie Dunkerley)
However, Dunkerley could not see his future at Hull and actually had a trial at Bradford City before moving to North Ferriby United on a initial one-month loan spell. “That came around through one of my coaches I had at my time with Hull City, Richard O’Donnell,” said Dunkerley. ” I spoke to Jon Beale and I said ‘listen I know how things are going, but I want it like in concrete, I want to know what’s happening’ so he said ‘well we’re not going to be offering you anything at the end of the season.’ I said ‘well I knew that was coming, can I start exploring other avenues and other teams?’ and he said yeah sure. And speaking with Rich, he knew one of the coaches down at Bradford, I think it was Sam Collins, and they brought me down for two weeks and I really enjoyed it. Obviously nothing came of it at the end, but my time there, even though it was short, it was really good. I worked with Stuart McCall, he was class, and I was with the first team.
“That was my first real sniff at first team, being involved in the first team environment and they turned round to me and said ‘listen we really like you’. I trained really well and I couldn’t of had a better trial to be honest and it’s funny saying that when your looking at it and nothing came of it and they just turned round to me at the end and said ‘look we really like you, you’ve done really well, you’re fit and well, the only thing is your just a bit inexperienced. If we were going to sign someone, we want someone who’s played a few league games or who’s played at a decent standard of first team football’ so also that kind of made me think I need to go out somewhere and then prompted the move to Ferriby.”
(Dunkerley in action for Ferriby against Buxton in the Evo-Stik Premier League. Photo: @MarkLeighton13)
And he did move to Ferriby, on a initial one month loan and it came about from a sauna session with former Hull City academy player Ben Clappison. “I bumped into him (Clappison) at David Lloyds, at the gym, and we were both sat in the sauna and we were both talking about football and how we’re getting on and I said that I wasn’t really getting a sniff at the 23’s. Clappy put me and Chris (Bolder) in contact and then we got the move done. I came down and trained a few times; stayed there for a month and then Chris just turned round to me and said ‘I like you as a player, I liked your application, would you like to stay until the end of the season?’ So I said yeah and took the opportunity and to be fair that’s probably the best football career move I’ve made personally.”
When speaking about the difference of standard between academy football and men’s football, Dunkerley joked: “I remember my first debut was Boston at home and we took a spanking!”
He added: “It was like a big shock to the system as I thought I would get on the ball and start just dribbling at people or get lots of time on the ball, but no I had big blokes smashing me about so I kind of quickly had to learn that your not playing youth football, your playing men’s football so in that respect it’s been an eye-opener, but I really enjoyed it.”
(Dunkerley in action for Ferriby. Photo: @MarkLeighton13)
Dunkerley spent the rest of the season at Ferriby, but he couldn’t help the club prevent a second successive relegation. However, Dunkerley has enjoyed the transition into first-team football. “The whole experience of first joining at Ferriby up until now as been first class because it’s kind of made me see what real football is all about.”
Dunkerley also said it wasn’t a hard decision at the beginning of the season to rejoin the Villagers. “Chris (Bolder) and Robbo (Paul Robson) were just brilliant to me from the day I came in so it wasn’t really a hard decision and then the lads were all good to be round, so I felt like it was a good environment. Obviously we had been relegated and stuff like that which was hard to take in, but working with them people, that’s what really made me stick and even though we’re in a bit of a sticky situation now, I’m still glad I signed for Ferriby this year.”
The midfielder though still thanks his time at Hull City Academy, especially the medical staff who dealt with him throughout his injury. “I think the medical staff were unbelievable. There was Kev Able at the time, Duncan Robson who took all my rehab, Matt Booth, Alex Chester, they were all the physios there at the time and they were brilliant at the medical side of stuff and I couldn’t of wished for anymore.”
The world is at Dunkerley’s feet and is looking to kick on a promising career, so what is his future plans at the moment? “Well I haven’t got any plans to move on or anything like that from Ferriby just yet. I think the fans at Ferriby are yet to see the best of me. I haven’t had too much game time this season, but the game time I have had, I think I’ve impacted more off the bench than probably starting games. In terms of the future, club wise, I’ll still be at Ferriby. I think I’ll be seeing this season out with them. For the future, I just want to keep progressing up the leagues. The aim is to play the highest level of football that I possibly can play and to play under people who want me there so wherever that means I end up, I don’t know I’ll have to wait and see.”
(I spoke to Charlie Dunkerley at Hull Kingston Radio 107.4FM. Follow their Twitter @HullKRFM and listen to the full interview with Charlie below!)